In writing the lead for this post, I realized much of what I write begins with at least a mention of the weather or the changing seasons, and how it’s affecting our garden/chickens/food on the day-to-day. Even if it gets old for others, it’s never going to bother me. Over the last few years, I’ve become enchanted with how the workings of the earth, other space rocks, and human behavior interact to influence our experience walking through each year.
So here’s another mention of the weather, I guess. It’s cold now! The mornings and evenings call for sweaters and the use of our ancient oil furnace, the meals are getting heartier and tend more toward soup, and OMGCHRISTMASISSOON! I love the holidays, so that’s my favorite part of the deal.
The last farmers markets of the year in my neighborhood always make me sad, and also make me buy fresh produce like it’s going out of style. There are worse things to do compulsively, I suppose. My favorite farmers there, Nicolas and Norma Amaro, supply us with fresh peppers, tomatillos, herbs, and a plethora of other delights from June to October. In the three growing seasons we’ve lived in this neighborhood, Nicolas has always brought something new and unfamiliar to the market to show off. This year, my favorite thing was fresh garbanzo beans. Last year, it was papalo, an herb that replaced cilantro in some of our salsas. Every week, he’ll give me either a new food to try cooking, or a new way to cook an old favorite. I love the guy.
Last chance I had, I snagged some poblano peppers from the Amaros, and used them, along with frozen New Mexico Hatch chiles, to recreate the chile relleno casserole I have eaten nearly every Christmas Eve of my life. My family cooks Mexican(esque) food for Christmas Eve dinner. I don’t know why, but I sure don’t mind. To go along with our sweet tea infused with candy canes, we’ve got tacos, we’ve got salsa-fied rice, we’ve got guacamole, and we’ve got chile relleno casserole.
This casserole is a less labor-intensive version of actual chile rellenos. It’s a perfect, hot comforting dish that will have you pleasure-moaning. Mostly, though, it’s a vehicle to get spice-laden cheese into your belly.
Many of Joseph’s and my meals are of the one-or-two-dish variety, but at least once a week, we’ll spend the whole evening cooking together and make a meal like this one, which included chicken fajitas on homemade tortillas, guacamole, and a Mexican-style rice, in addition to the relleno dish. The consensus on this one: totally delicious, and way too much cheese for two people at once. It’s amazing, it’s delicious, it is freaking full of cheese. There’s a reason this has always been a holiday tradition and not that of a regular weeknight. The solution – make this casserole when you have company. Or freeze the leftovers. Too much cheese is really a first-world problem.
Chile relleno casserole
1 T butter, for greasing the pan
3 fresh poblano peppers
2 frozen hatch chiles (you can really use any mix of chiles you’d like)
1 lb grated white cheddar (I used Kerrygold)
1 lb grated jack cheese (I used Face Rock Creamery)
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 C whole milk or cream (I used raw, grassfed from Terra Farma)
3 T flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 egg whites
16 oz plain tomato sauce or that yellow-canned sauce with the duck on it (I used home-canned)
Preheat the oven to 325. Butter a 9-x-13 glass baking dish. Dice the chiles and spread half on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with 1 lb. of cheese. Layer the rest of the chiles and the rest of the cheese on top.
Beat the egg yolks with the cream/milk, flour, and salt and pepper. Beat egg whites until foamy and fold into the yolk mixture. Pour this over the cheese and chiles in the pan. Bake, covered, for an hour. Pour the tomato sauce on top and bake, uncovered, for about a half hour longer or until it cracks a bit on top and you’ve got a good crusty edge going on.
And enjoy the changing of the seasons wherever you are!